Photo by Regina Charboneau
To try Regina's Bananas Foster, click here for the recipe.
Do you remember when I wrote about "what flavor are you"? When it comes to desserts, my theory has consistently been that you are a caramel, chocolate, or citrus person. I pretty much am a caramel person if judged by my list below. These are my top 10 desserts, but keep in mind I am not a big dessert eater. I am more of a salt and fat kind of girl. When I have dessert, it is usually one of the following that I have a harder time resisting. I even surprise myself that it is mostly the classics I am drawn to.
10. Crème brulee - So creamy and not too sweet, and the hard caramelized sugar speaks to most of us. I make a crème brulee ice cream that one of my dearest friends said I should patent. How can you go wrong with sweet heavy cream and egg yolks topped with caramelized sugar?
9. Pineapple upside down cake - It is the butter and brown sugar that caramelize around the pineapple slices in the bottom of the pan that makes this cake worth eating. And leave off the maraschino cherries for me.
8. Chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt - How perfect for a salt and fat person like me, and this dessert is also the perfect size.
7. Chocolate mousse - Hold the whipped cream and make sure it is the classic French preparation. Dense and rich is the key.
6. Strawberry pie - When the Louisiana strawberry vendors start lining the highway near Ponchatoula in late April, it is time for a strawberry pie, and it has to have lots of fresh whipped cream.
5. Doberge Torte - Thin layers of cake with a custard filling between each layer. I like the chocolate one. This style of cake was created in New Orleans in 1933 by Beulah Ladner, who adapted the recipe from the Austrian Dobos Cake. In 1946 she sold her shop and recipe to Joe Gambino. I remember better versions that my father would bring home after he had traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana, or it could have been a childhood memory where there seemed to be 10 or 12 layers, but now it is traditionally seven.
4. St. Honore cake - Specifically from Stella Pastry in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood. Even though the custard has a distinct rum flavoring, that is part of what makes it memorable.
3. Chocolate eclair - It has to be filled with pastry cream—no whipped cream filled éclair will do—and the chocolate on top has to be dark and rich.
2. Pecan pie - Flaky crust is a must, light Karo syrup not dark, very custardy, and small wild pecans that you find around Natchez.
1. Bananas Foster
I have heard every possible story about where Bananas Foster originated, even that it was created at Antoine's in the 1850s for Stephen Foster, who was known as the "father of American music" and died in 1864. Foster may have eaten at Antoine's as it opened in the 1840s, but it is not Bananas Foster that they flambé there but rather their exquisite Café Brulot Diabolique.
In fact, Bananas Foster was invented a hundred years later at Brennan's Restaurant in the 1950s. New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America, and Owen Edward Brennan challenged his talented chef, Paul Blangé, to include bananas in a new culinary creation. This now classic dessert was named for Richard Foster, who served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission, a civic effort to clean up the French Quarter. The owner of the Foster Awning Company, Foster was a frequent customer of Brennan's and a very good friend.
Paul Blangé knew what he was doing in the kitchen. Butter and brown sugar were a match made in heaven, cinnamon and rum are so perfect together, and what better way to round off the sweetness than the addition of a bit of orange and lemon zest. How can you go wrong when you slightly cook bananas in this buttery, caramelized, perfect concoction, and then there's the pièce de résistance ... vanilla ice cream. Genius.
This is a dessert that anyone can make with ease. I don't get into the traditional flambéing of this dessert, as I am apprehensive to encourage anyone to play with fire. If you do flambé, be sure and sprinkle some cinnamon into your flame for an added "sparkle" to your presentation. But even without the show, this is a tried and true pleaser. With just a few ingredients you can have a classic dessert in very short order.